Afternoon tea – More on the language of tea

Dear readers and followers,

My anniversary post on the tea etiquette needed a visual explanation, and here it is, as a belated Christmas post. First of all, let’s Dame Maggie Smith say what all tea drinkers often think:


Muriel: I don’t care about any of that. Listen and learn, son. Tea is a herb that’s been dried out so to bring it back to life, you have to infuse it in boiling water. That is boiling water and everywhere I’ve been in this country, they slap down a cup of tepid nonsense, you know, with the tea bag lying beside it, which means I’ve got to go through the ridiculous business of dunking it in the lukewarm piss waiting for the slightest change of colour to occur. And at my age, I haven’t got the time.
Sonny: This is what I’m talking about.

Now, it may seem trivial to those who don’t drink tea, but it is not. In one of my recent trips, I flew with Alitalia; many things can be said of it, but I thought we could still rely on this company on service. I was being naïve, we cannot. Their idea of a sandwich is poor to say the least, but my biggest mistake was to ask for a cup of tea, because their idea is, exactly as Muriel sais, “lukewarm piss.” More to that, they didn’t even have the decency of giving the bag on a side, they apparently used the one bag for a whole kettle, obtaining a tepid amber water with no flavour of tea at all. So, to those who keep asking the same question every time, no, I don’t want my tea “undrinkably hot like you do it,” I want my tea properly done!

Switching to more interesting matters, just before Christmas I treated myself and my friend, who kindly stars in some pictures, to an afternoon tea to complete what started on our blog anniversary. Once again, this is not strictly related to languages and translation, but it definitely is part of the culture of the country that is currently my home, and it has a language in itself. I will leave you with a little video of the pictures I took and that prove what I described in the previous post.

(Music by Bensound)

As you can see, in the video we use tea strainers, because we have a teapot with the loose leaves inside. Of course, that is the way to do it. If instead you are going for an infuser, as I usually do for my cup of tea, you may want to carefully consider what better suits you. There are countless types, many extremely cute or funny, but do not forget that, in the end, they have the purpose of infusing your tea, therefore they need to allow the leaves to grow. Silicone is modern and colourful, but I personally do not like any crockery made of plastic of any kind, it is greasy to touch. Here you have pictures of three of the main kinds of infusers, and I have all of them, here in London or in Sardinia:


Number 3 is my favourite, it has the perfect size for a mug; it is easy to fill, empty, and clean without having to get dirty, and it allows you to also stir the tea and the milk as if it were a teaspoon (yes, I usually leave it in infusion and pour the milk, shame on me!) Number 1 usually has too big holes and too much of the tea end up in the cup, and you also have to have tea pouring through your fingers while you unscrew and empty it, which I find extremely annoying. Number 2 is a good compromise if you like your infuser to disappear in the cup but without having your cup full of leaves and without having to have a tea bath for your fingers afterwards. Now that I went home for the festive season, my best friend received me with this cutie, and I had to try it at least:


Now, it is almost time to have a tea again, will you join me? Just, don’t forget: Keep being naughty, Knotty surely will!!!


Learning Italian vocabulary with Knotty Translations – Futuro semplice part 2

Dear readers and followers,

We are back after the party for the first anniversary of Knotty Translations This week, more about the simple future and some exceptions. I am publishing the video this week and a written post on culture and the language of tea next week because I wanted that to be the Christmas post. Therefore, next week the day will be Thursday to respect the tradition of a post on Christmas Eve. For this week, some exceptions on the conjugation of verbs in the future tense.

We will see the case of avere, but more verbs that follow that rule are: Cadere (to fall,) potere (to can,) dovere (to must, to have to,) vedere (to see.)

One exception is the verb Vivere (to live) in which the stress does not fall on the desinence but it still works in the same way: Vivere -> io vivrò.

Special cases are those in which the r doubles:

Volere (to want) -> io volrò -> io vorrò

Tenere (to keep) -> io tenrò -> io terrò

Bere (to drink) -> io berrò.

For this week it is all, keep being naughty, Knotty surely will!!!

Learning Italian vocabulary with Knotty Translations – Futuro semplice part 1

Dear readers and followers,

We are back with our videos after a while. As announced, the videos will be published every fortnight, but last time there has been an exception, with a written post on vocabulary. You can find it here.

This week we start introducing the simple future tense and we need to remember to always write the stress on the Italian words that end in a stressed vowel (parole tronche) to avoid funny things such as the one that I tweeted some days ago and that you can find here.

Enjoy and share the video and do not forget to leave your suggestions and feedback!

Also, keep being naughty, Knotty surely will!!!


Black Friday, Green Monday, and the rest of the rainbow of shopping madness

Dear readers and followers,

December has just started, Christmas is still quite far away, but we have already had our dose of mad shopping and there is plenty more to come, and they have names that make you lose your wish to enter a shop ever again. Do you know when the special days dedicated to offers and shopping are and what they are called. Would you like to know so you can avoid them because people shopping seriously annoy you? Welcome to my world, let us see them briefly. If you are about my age, you will remember when the sales were price reductions starting the day after the Epiphany, that is 7 January, and lasting until the end of February to start again in July for other two months. It does not work like that anymore, the beginning of the new millennium brought constant sales with special days in which the products are incredibly cheap.

The most known may be Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving. In the States (but now also in Europe, where it does not make any sense because we do not celebrate Thanksgiving,) the fourth Thursday of November is Thanksgiving; the day after marks the beginning of the Christmas shopping and, despite the fact that is not an official holiday, it is a day off work for several working categories in some states, which makes it possible to have a long weekend of shopping right before December starts. The name Black Friday seems to mean that the shop would finally start making profit and their accounts would switch from red to black. We are recently expanding the event to the whole weekend and more.

Cyber Monday is the Monday after the Black Friday weekend and is dedicated to online shopping since ten years. It was created by, while eBay created Green Monday, usually the second Monday of December but, in general, at least ten days before Christmas.

Free Shipping Day is the third Monday of December and was created some years after the previous ones with the objective of expanding the online shopping season. It is also typically American because it is based on free shipping in continental US, but it is now expanding very fast.

Super Saturday, also called Panic Saturday, is the last Saturday before Christmas and has, once again, been created to push Christmas sales when time is almost over. Another horrible day is Boxing Day, the day after Christmas in which people queue outside the shopping centres starting in the first hours of the morning, that is when is still night, just to have some discounts. To avoid that sad situation, now the sales last the whole week, not only on 26, but the nonsensical queues don’t seem to have changed much. The name of Boxing day comes from the boxes that the workers would receive from their employers the day after Christmas.

Do you think you have heard everything? Well, there is also Singles’ Day. Created in 1993, the 11 November to be precise, is also called Bachelors’ Day and started in China, not in the US, for once, to celebrate the pride of young Chinese people to be single. The date was chosen because 11/11 reminds of individuals standing alone; in fact, the Chinese name translates as “bare sticks holiday.” Started as a festival, this day is now a huge day of online shopping so, maybe, this young people may be proud, but they do not struck me as happy in being single!

Do you think all hope is lost in our consumeristic society? I would say yes, but we still pretend we care and in 2012 92nd Street Y and the United Nations Foundation created Giving Tuesday as a response to consumerism. In this day, the Tuesday after Thanksgiving, money is raised to help selected charities. It seems just another empty day to show the world that we care as if donations and charitable work could be worth more if done in that special day despite the rest of the year wasting and spending, instead of doing a simple, silent good action whenever we feel like, but then, this is just me being cynic, you know me. Moralism is not the point of this post, the aim is to clarify all the names that we hear out there and push us to buy, or they try at least. I hope you have a clearer idea now.

Don’t forget: Keep being naughty, Knotty surely will!!!

“Islamico”, “rifugiato” e altre parole che usiamo a sproposito – by Learning Italian vocabulary with Knotty Translations

Cari lettori e seguitori,

Questa settimana un post un po’ sui generis sul vocabolario italiano, ma mi sembra necessario viste certe oscenità che si sentono e leggono. Oggi impariamo la differenza tra le parole “emigrato”, “rifugiato” e “profugo” per poi passare a quella tra “islamico”, “islamista” e “fondamentalista islamico” e a un breve ripasso di linguistica generale. Mi servirò delle definizioni del Vocabolario Treccani. Iniziamo.

emigrato agg. e s. m. (f. -a) [part. pass. di emigrare]. – Che o chi è espatriato, temporaneamente o definitivamente, per ragioni di lavoro: i connazionali e.; notizie dagli e.; le rimesse degli e., i risparmî che essi mandano alla famiglia di origine; e. politici, coloro che hanno lasciato la patria per ragioni politiche.

rifugiato s. m. (f. -a) [part. pass. di rifugiarsi, per traduz. del fr. réfugié]. – R. politico, o semplicem. rifugiato, individuo che, già appartenente per cittadinanza a uno stato, è accolto, in seguito a vicende politiche, nel territorio di un altro stato e diviene oggetto di norme internazionali intese ad assicurarne la protezione (con accezione più estesa, il termine è riferito anche a profughi per motivi religiosi: per es., i r. ugonotti in Olanda). In partic., r. ambientali, quelli che hanno dovuto abbandonare il proprio paese in conseguenza di una catastrofe naturale o di eventi ambientali di particolare gravità; r. nazionali, cittadini di uno stato provenienti da regioni sottoposte a un regime politico che essi non considerano come definitivo: l’espressione è stata usata per i cittadini tedeschi della Germania orientale trasferitisi, in seguito ai rivolgimenti territoriali succeduti alla seconda guerra mondiale (e prima del mutamento di regime avvenuto nel 1989), nella Germania occidentale.

pròfugo s. m. (f. -a) e agg. [dal lat. profŭgus, der. di profugĕre «cercare scampo», comp. di pro-1 e fugĕre «fuggire»] (pl. m. -ghi). – Persona costretta ad abbandonare la sua terra, il suo paese, la sua patria in seguito a eventi bellici, a persecuzioni politiche o razziali, oppure a cataclismi come eruzioni vulcaniche, terremoti, alluvioni, ecc. (in questi ultimi casi è oggi più com. il termine sfollato): il p. Enea; i p. del Veneto nella prima guerra mondiale; dalla capitale si irradiavano per tutto il paese torme di p., senza pane e senza tetto, terrificati dalle rappresaglie (P. Levi); i p. della Dalmazia e Venezia Giulia, durante e dopo la seconda guerra mondiale; le famiglie p. del Polesine, del Belice, del Friuli; accogliere, assistere i p.; con uso più largo nel linguaggio poetico: dove or io vi seguirò, se il Fato Ah da gran giorni omai profughe in terra Alla Grecia vi tolse? (Foscolo, alle Grazie). Per campo profughi, v. campo, n. 3 c.

È evidente che, in alcuni casi, i termini si sovrappongano, in particolare quando sono seguiti da una qualche specificazione; è il caso di “emigrato politico”, che sembra avvicinarsi a rifugiato. A grandi linee, emigrato è chiunque si trasferisca in un altro paese per motivi di lavoro; rifugiato è chi è costretto a lasciare il proprio paese per timore a rappresaglie politiche o religiose ed è protetto dalle norme internazionali; profugo è chi si sposta per gli stessi motivi dei rifugiati, ma non ha le caratteristiche per essere protetto dalle leggi internazionali. Per una spiegazione più esaustiva della differenza tra gli ultimi due termini, potete consultare quest’articolo dell’Enciclopedia Treccani.

Un concetto collegato, ma che implica un obbligo imposto dallo stato, è quello dell’esilio:

eṡìlio (o eṡìglio; ant. essìlio) s. m. [dal lat. exsilium, der. di exsul «esule»]. – 1.Pena limitativa della libertà personale, che consiste nell’allontanamento del cittadino dalla patria; può essere temporaneo o a vita, e ha carattere di stabilità per tutto il tempo che dura la pena: condannare all’e.; mandare, cacciare in e.; minacciare, revocare l’e.; patire l’e.; L’essilio che m’è dato, onor mi tegno (Dante). Il termine può indicare anche il volontario abbandono della patria, per sottrarsi a una persecuzione, a violenze civili o politiche, o per altri motivi: l’e. di Carlo Alberto; scelse l’e. piuttosto che sottostare alla tirannide.

Queste definizioni, come si può vedere chiaramente, sono indipendenti dai concetti di religione e razza, nel senso che esistono emigrati, rifugiati e profughi di tutte le fedi e razze, e la situazione di questi gruppi dipende dalla vicende economiche, politiche ma anche ambientali dei loro paesi in un momento dato. Non ha quindi nessun senso parlare di profughi e musulmani come di sinonimi solo perché i paesi a maggioranza musulmana dell’Africa e del Medio Oriente sono quelli da cui, attualmente, partono i profughi che arrivano in Europa. Ma vediamo cosa significano i termini legati alla religione islamica che spesso usiamo a sproposito.

musulmano (o mussulmano) agg. e s. m. [dall’arabo-pers. muslimān, plur. di muslim «aderente all’Islam»]. 1. agg. Di ciò che appartiene alla religione, alla civiltà, al pensiero islamici: le dottrine m.; la cultura m.; usi e credenze musulmane.

islàmico agg. [der. di islam] (pl. m. -ci). – Dell’Islam: religione i., cultura i.; più genericam., che appartiene all’islamismo, inteso non solo come religione ma come sistema politico, sociale e culturale: popolazioni i.; il mondo i.; la civiltà islamica. Anche come sost., seguace dell’islamismo.

islamista s. m. e f. [der. di islam] (pl. m. -i). – 1. Studioso dell’islamismo. 2. Sostenitore (anche fanatico) dell’islamismo come unica religione; fondamentalista islamico.

Sembrerebbe quindi che musulmano e islamico, se usati come aggettivi, siano sinonimi e si debbano usare per indicare qualcosa relativa all’islamismo. Islamista, invece, è un sostantivo che si riferisce a una persona che studia o che sostiene l’islamismo. Questa parola, purtroppo, viene usata sempre più spesso come sinonimo di fondamentalista islamico, significato che non gli apparteneva in origine. Questi termini, come si può vedere, sono neutri, non sono negativi né denigratori, così come non lo sono “cristiano” o “ortodosso”, semplicemente indicano qualcosa di riferito a una religione. I termini assumono connotazioni negative quando li associamo ad altri sostantivi o aggettivi. “Fondamentalista islamico” è uno dei tanti esempi, ma non dobbiamo farci ingannare, “islamico” non è l’abbreviatura di “fondamentalista islamico”, sono due concetti diversi. Per capirci, è come se dicessimo che “cattolica” e “Inquisizione cattolica” sono sinonimi: non lo sono. A me, in quanto cattolica, non piace che si pensi che io metto al rogo chi non condivide la mia fede solo perché l’Inquisizione lo faceva; allo stesso modo, agli islamici non piace che li si associ a un gruppo limitato di criminali.

Vediamola dal punto di vista linguistico partendo dai concetti di iperonimo e iponimo. Sempre secondo le definizioni Treccani:

iperònimo agg. e s. m. [comp. di iper- e -onimo, coniato in contrapp. a iponimo]. – In linguistica, termine indicante un’unità lessicale di significato più generico ed esteso rispetto ad una o più altre unità lessicali che sono in essa incluse (per es., fiore è iperonimo, ossia «superordinato», rispetto a rosa, viola, garofano); è quindi l’inverso di iponimo e corrisponde a quello che da altri linguisti è talora chiamato arcilessema o archilessema.

ipònimo agg. e s. m. [comp. di ipo- e -onimo, sul modello di sinonimo]. – In linguistica (e più in partic. in semantica), è così definita una unità lessicale la cui estensione sia minore rispetto ad altra, della stessa classe ma di significato più generico, che la comprende: per es., cavallo, rosa, motocicletta si dicono «iponimi» rispetto a animale, fiore, veicolo che sono ad essi «superordinati» (v. iperonimo).

L’esempio più tipico quando si studia linguistica è, appunto quello di fiore e rosa: fiore è l’iperonimo, o superordinato, mentre rosa l’iponimo, il che significa che tutte le rose sono fiori ma non tutti i fiori sono rose. Graficamente, possiamo rappresentarlo così:1

Nel nostro discorso, “islamico” è il termine iperonimo o superordinato, quello con un significato più generico e che ingloba unità lessicali più limitate. La locuzione “fondamentalista islamico” è iponima di islamico, e ce lo dice anche solo il fatto che include il termine ma lo specifica e lo riduce.2Non voglio entrare in merito alle idee espresse spesso coscientemente tramite l’uso di un termine o l’altro ma, nel caso si trattasse di confusione o disconoscimento, ora spero le differenze siano più chiare.

Don’t forget, keep being naughty, Knotty surely will!!!

Learning Italian vocabulary with Knotty Translations – Nomi non numerabili

Dear readers and followers,

Here you have a new video of the series. Today we talk about uncountable nouns in Italian. As announced on the video, there will be a change in the schedule now that we have a less pressing list of subjects to describe: The videos will be published every fortnight. Please keep sharing and commenting, and enjoy this lessons!

Freelancing and the problem of charging the right fees

Dear readers and followers,

For a while I thought I was not going to write about this subject because it has been tackled so many times from every point of view and in countless websites. Why then I am doing it now? Because I had the most unreal conversation with a colleague and that simply made me mad. Without really quoting everything he said, I will try and give a sense of his ideas.

In his own words, he doesn’t master his first working language and would like to be as fluent in it as I am in English. Apart from the fact that my level of English is nothing extraordinary, as I explained to him, after graduating I was still struggling with it, and I reached this level by living in English speaking countries during several years and through several life events that forced me to improve a language for which I had a hearty and complete refusal. For all these reasons, he could not weigh his situation according to mine, because the two had nothing in common. That said, he admitted that he didn’t feel comfortable enough with his knowledge and that he knew that “they always say that we should not accept lower fees, but sometimes one can’t refuse or someone else will take the job.” One of the reasons he used to justify his charging a low fee was that, not being sure of his level of the foreign language, he could not always charge the regular fee.

There are many do’s and dont’s  when we talk about fees, and some are not as strict and compulsory as we often say, but the famous “Don’t lower your fees” should be the rule we live by. Charging less because we are not confident of our level of language and of the quality of our job is wrong from several points of view. Forgetting for a moment the aspect of setting the right fee, we need to remember that, if we cannot deliver a product that respects the quality standards, we should not accept the job in the first place; would you like your engineer to say to you: “I am not sure your house will be safe if I draw the project, therefore I will charge you less?” No, we expect our house to stand and last, and we hire a professional exactly for that reason. The mastering of languages is not a plus, it is our working tool; if the tool is not sharp enough, we simply are not ready, and that language cannot be one of our working languages, there is not changing that!

Enough recriminating now, let’s talk about fees more in details; that doesn’t mean that I am going to list mine here, although they are not a secret. Far from being set rules, what I will give here are some tips on how to set your fees. First of all, they are not your brand, you don’t have to choose them and stick to them forever, they are sort of a guideline for you, but then each customer is different and, without going nuts, we can adapt. Your minimum fee is the minimum you accept to charge but it is always within the umbrella of what is acceptable. It is usually not less than two pence lower than your regular fee (talking about translations charged per source word;) in my case, due to my working languages and the type of translations I do, there is no variation according to languages, but you may want to take that into account when setting your fees, because there is quite a huge difference depending on the family of languages of the source and the target. Extra charges and discounts are subjects that may be controversial: We usually all agree on the fact that we need to charge extra for urgency (20-30% seems a reasonable increase,) but we often say that there are several ways of offering a discount without actually reducing the price, as in adding additional services. Of course, that depends on the documents and it is not always possible, therefore I think we may be more flexible on this point, always respecting the market and the standards.

When setting fees, we should not forget that they correspond to time and knowledge: Time that we spend to actually produce the final result, and that we cannot spend in any other way; time that we invested in our studies to be able to perform up to standards; time that we constantly invest in research and CPD. These last two are directly translated into knowledge that goes into the final result of each translation job. Interpreting is the same, although the travel and dietary expenses need to be counted if they are not separately covered by the client. Of course, to all that we need to add all the business-related expenses that are not so immediately obvious but that cannot be overlooked (devices and subscriptions, dictionaries and software, insurances, dry cleaning, etc.)

One thing that is important to remember is that we are a very nice sector in which to work, therefore no one should doubt about asking some colleagues about their fees, that is the probably the best way to learn and to be sure that the charge is fair. Also, to have an idea and maybe present our colleague with an idea to discuss, you may want to have a look at some pages that can be visited online. is one of the main online translating communities and offers a huge list that can be browsed according to our combinations. Those prices seem fair enough, while some conversation threads are just questionable and you do not want to end up being confused and discouraged by them. Here is their search engine for fees:

The Society of Authors also offers some guidelines that are similar to the rest, and it includes some useful links as well. Here is their page:

I found this article quite interesting to read the other day. It is not about translation, but some aspects are shared by all freelancers, and I believe this article gives an idea of how we should be flexible but also how about how the process of setting our fees can be a journey of self-discovery and a way to reach awareness when we enter the market. Have a look:

Also, always keep in mind that you have webinars and talks to which you can attend and that may enlighten you on this aspect. I have recently attended to some presentations about this subject, and they are always good to have new hints. Talking about online training, the ITI’s Starting Up as a Freelance Translator course immediately comes to mind because I found out yesterday that a very good colleague has just joined the team of trainers. Not only he is a great professional, but the ITI one of the main professional associations for translators and interpreters and therefore a guarantee of quality. You can browse the SUFT here:

I have talked here as if this idea were only a problem for young translators and interpreters that are just starting, but of course there may be several reason that push us to have to set our fees. An experienced translator may have worked in-house for a long time and can after decide to start freelancing instead, although I believe he would know how to set fees without struggling in the process, and he would know enough colleagues to be able to have some advice from them. Sometimes, the freelance may need to move and completely change the market in which he works; in this case, one would usually keep the old clients, but there is always the chance of expanding the portfolio, and it would not make any sense to keep the same rate in the UK, for example, and in Peru, because the market is completely different. This, of course, takes us to another aspect that we haven’t considered but that is important: Our fees have to be adapted to the market, which doesn’t mean that they have to be lowered, but that what is acceptable vary according to the economy of the countries, and our prices need to take that into account.

There is so much to tell about this subject, but at least this introduction wanted to give some hints on how to move in the market. The most important thing to remember, though, is that lowering your fees damages yourself, your colleagues, and the whole market. If you accept underpaid jobs, you are disrespecting yourself and your time, but also all the other translators who fought to build a name and a portfolio of clients and have a respectable situation. It doesn’t matter the reason, you should never downgrade yourself and us so much as to charge unacceptable fees.

Keep being naughty, Knotty surely will, but not on the invoices!!!

Learning Italian vocabulary with Knotty Translations – plural of nouns part 2

Dear readers and followers,

After the break to give space to the Language Show Live and the interview by One Sec, our lessons are back. We are still talking about some special cases regarding the plural of nouns, have a look at the video.


One Sec interviews Knotty Translations, part 2

Dear readers and followers,

Here for you the link to the second part of my chat with OneSec Translations. You will discover more about my private self and you will find out about my passions. Click on the picture to enjoy a cup of tea or coffee with Chiara and yours truly.


Keep being naughty, Knotty surely will!!!

One Sec interviews Knotty Translations, part 1

Dear readers and followers,

If you want to know more about Knotty, have a look at the coffee break chat with the lovely One Sec. Click on the picture for the link to the first half, while the second one will be published on Thursday:


Keep being naughty, Knotty surely will!!!